Hollywood comes out in support of gay marriage

October 22, 2008 6:15:29 PM PDT
For weeks, Hollywood had been criticized for not contributing enough to defeat a ballot initiative in California that would ban same-sex marriage. Now, members of the film and TV industries are sweeping in to preserve gays' right to get hitched. Maybe they were planning for a Hollywood ending all along?

After news of Proposition 8's supporters outraising its opponents spread and the measure gained support in public opinion polls, many Hollywood insiders have made declarations of support - financial and otherwise - against the ban. While the "No on 8" campaign hasn't quite reached the buzziness of other celebrity causes du jour, momentum is growing.

"The entertainment industry is obviously an important donor base," said Chad Griffin, a political strategist for the campaign. "It's an industry that's often stood up against discrimination. This particular initiative writes discrimination into the constitution. I think it's something most fair-minded people, celebrities or otherwise, are outraged about."

Leading the Hollywood outreach is Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen, who wed art consultant Gabriel Catone in a ceremony officiated by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in June. The "American Beauty" and "Pushing Daisies" producer dug deep into his contacts to ask for their support against the initiative. Cohen's biggest get? Steven Spielberg.

"Steven's been an incredible supporter of me, both personally and professionally, so I called him and told him how much this has meant to me and Gabe," said Cohen, who worked with the director on "The Color Purple" in 1985. "When he told me that he and Kate Capshaw were giving a $100,000 contribution, I was so moved and thankful."

Since same-sex marriage became legal in California in June, at least 11,000 couples have exchanged vows statewide, according to the Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy based at the University of California, Los Angeles. Among those couples were Ellen DeGeneres and actress Portia de Rossi, who married in August.

The talk show host recently made a public service announcement urging voters to oppose the ballot initiative and purchased $100,000 of television commercial time for her ad.

"I don't know what people are scared of," DeGeneres joked on her show Wednesday. "Maybe they think their children will be influenced (by gay marriage), but I've got to tell you, I was raised by two heterosexuals. Everywhere I looked - heterosexuals. And they did not influence me. It's time we love people for who they are and let them love who they want."

Stars as big as Brad Pitt - and as small as "NCIS" actress Pauley Perrette - have also donated their own cash to defeat Proposition 8 in California, according to state records.

"I consider myself a civil rights activist before I consider myself an actress," said Perrette, who donated $3,000. "Before I ever accidentally became an actress, I was a sociology and psychology major, and I've always been very involved in civil rights. I really believe this is the biggest civil rights issue of our generation."

Pitt made headlines when he donated $100,000 to fight the ballot initiative. Trevor Neilson, Pitt's political and philanthropic adviser, said the actor continues to be surprised that his colleagues in the entertainment industry have not donated more money to support the battle against Proposition 8.

Among the other famous contributors: "Point of No Return" actress Bridget Fonda ($200); "One Life to Live" actor Jason Tam ($100); "In Plain Sight" actress Mary McCormack ($200); "Good Will Hunting" director Gus Van Sant ($2,500); "Brothers & Sisters" executive producer Greg Berlanti ($5,000) and "Star Trek" actor George Takei ($2,600), who wed business manager Brad Altman in September.

"I'm gay, and I have a partner of 17 years," said "The Real World" co-creator and executive producer Jonathan Murray, who donated $10,000 to support gay marriage but hasn't wed his partner. "We have a son who's 9. He'll be 10 soon. We believe we have as much right to be married as any other two adults in California. It's that simple."

The "Yes on 8" campaign has far less wattage. The most famous contributor to appear in state records is Orson Bean, perhaps best known for his frequent appearances as a panelist on "To Tell the Truth." He donated $200.

Sonja Eddings Brown, a spokeswoman for "Yes on 8," said the campaign has not reached out to Hollywood because "the campaign is a campaign of the people. It's not intended to be dotted with celebrities."

"It's outstanding that Brad Pitt and Steven Spielberg want to participate in the process, but their examples in their homes are the best indicator," said Eddings Brown. "They've created homes that have a committed mother and father in each of them. In Brad Pitt's case, he went outside of the country and adopted kids who didn't have a mother and a father."

The biggest boon for the "No on 8" campaign may come from something Tinseltown loves most: a good party. The movement held its first star-studded no-press-allowed fundraiser Tuesday at supermarket mogul Ron Burkle's Beverly Hills estate. Melissa Etheridge and Mary J. Blige performed at the sold-out event, which required a minimum donation of $1,000.

The bash, which was attended by such celebs as Barbara Streiesand, David Hyde Pierce and Rob Reiner, raised over $4 million for the campaign, according to Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. That money will be used to purchase air time for campaign ads. Jean said she's pleased with Hollywood's support but believes they can do better.

"There could be a lot more," said Jean. "I really hope that more people who are in the entertainment industry will decide to get involved with this campaign and will help us defeat Proposition 8. The truth is, if we don't have more of our straight allies - not only in Hollywood but in other areas - we're going to have a hard time on Nov. 4th."


Load Comments